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  1. Also char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal. pertaining to, constituting, or indicating the character or peculiar quality of a person or thing; typical; distinctive: Red and gold are the characteristic colors of autumn.
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  1. a distinguishing feature or quality: Generosity is his chief characteristic.
  2. Mathematics.
    1. the integral part of a common logarithm.Compare mantissa.
    2. the exponent of 10 in a number expressed in scientific notation.
    3. the smallest positive integer n such that each element of a given ring added to itself n times results in 0.
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Origin of characteristic

From the Greek word charaktēristikós, dating back to 1655–65. See character, -istic
Related formschar·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverbnon·char·ac·ter·is·tic, adjectivenon·char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverbqua·si-char·ac·ter·is·tic, adjectivequa·si-char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverbun·char·ac·ter·is·tic, adjectiveun·char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb

Synonyms for characteristic

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for characteristic

innate, singular, distinctive, unique, peculiar, idiosyncratic, style, essence, tendency, nature, attribute, component, peculiarity, virtue, aspect, temperament, tone, flavor, quality, symptom

Examples from the Web for characteristic

Contemporary Examples of characteristic

Historical Examples of characteristic

British Dictionary definitions for characteristic


  1. a distinguishing quality, attribute, or trait
  2. maths
    1. the integral part of a common logarithm, indicating the order of magnitude of the associated numberthe characteristic of 2.4771 is 2 Compare mantissa
    2. another name for exponent, used esp in number representation in computing
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  1. indicative of a distinctive quality, etc; typical
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Derived Formscharacteristically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for characteristic

adjective and noun both first attested 1660s, from character + -istic on model of Greek kharakteristikos. Earlier in the adjectival sense was characteristical (1620s). Related: Characteristically (1640s). Characteristics "distinctive traits" also attested from 1660s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

characteristic in Medicine


  1. A distinguishing feature or attribute; character.
  2. A structure or function determined by a gene or genes; trait.
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Related formschar′ac•ter•istic adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

characteristic in Science


  1. The part of a logarithm to the base 10 that is to the left of the decimal point. For example, if 2.749 is a logarithm, 2 is the characteristic. Compare mantissa.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.